July 17, 2011
Soothing to the Sole
Yesterday, I went to the shoe store with Zachary, and bought him new sneakers. It’s something mothers across America are required to do on a fairly frequent basis, nothing miraculous about it at all.
Except, it was.
We pulled into the parking lot, my youngest thrilled beyond all expectation to be acquiring new footwear. With only the slightest of hesitations, he held my hand as we crossed the busy parking lot, avoiding puddles and oil spills in equal measure. Amidst the cramped aisles of the store, Zach waited patiently (!) while the sales clerk concluded a business call. There were no protestations, no complaints when he was told to place his foot in the cold, metallic clutches of the measuring instrument, was excited to see he would indeed merit a half-size upgrade. Together, we looked for shoes which would “represent” his style, nothing too flashy, just simple canvas devoid of pink. He sat calmly while I shimmied several different shoes onto his tiny feet. Although he wandered away once, he returned immediately upon my summons. Greetings were exchanged with our helpful shopkeeper, as were names. The entire errand was nothing short of delightful.
Trust me, my shoe-shopping expeditions have not always been so peaceful. The one that readily comes to mind is a fairly recent trip to our local mall, an excursion in which I took my oldest child. Zach needed new shoes then too, and at that point in his life due to his busy schedule with Early Intervention, it was simpler just to measure his feet, and convince the employees that we could figure out his shoe size and purchase them in his absence. I’d conducted this errand many times in the past with Justin, with my boy happily ensconsced in his souped-up stroller, playing a succession of DVDs, unconcerned about my purchases.
Unfortunately, he took an interest that day.
After quickly locating my prize but subsequently waiting on a line at the register remininscent of the DMV on the last day of the month, I thought we were home free, and began to carefully maneuver Justin toward the exit. Halfway there, I felt the familiar resistance that signifies my son had planted his feet on the ground in protest. I looked down at his angst-ridden face for clues, prepared to offer him juice, snacks, or just about any legal bribe to get him to leave the premises, when he grabbed my hand and shoved it toward the underseat compartment of the stroller. I felt my heart clench, and a mild sweat envelop me.
Crap. He wants to wear his little brother’s shoes.
For years I’d been taking this child to purchase sneakers for his sibling, and never once had he protested when I hadn’t done the same for him. I (foolishly) tried to reason with my moderately autistic child, telling Justin we were on the way to get a treat, that the shoes were for Zach, and would barely encompass his toes. He regarded me with utter annoyance, and again shoved my hand, less gently this time.
I was in for it now.
I briefly contemplated returning to the cluttered shelves and placating him with a new pair, but I’d just bought him new duds mere weeks before, and I neither wanted to spend the money, nor give in to his demands. Instead, I propelled that stroller toward the main corridor of the mall, and pushed for dear life. There were several stops and starts, accompanied by the ever-escalating protests of my royally pissed-off son, but eventually I was able to angle his ride back so that it rested on two wheels, my purse and hard-won prize dangling precariously off the handles, praying I’d make it to Sears and our car without dropping him.
I had to stop at least three times, because my boy is big now, and he literally wasn’t taking this boycott of his demands lying down. We eventually made it to our SUV, surviving the surprised stares of the mall patrons and the semi-glare of a mall cop, whom I was certain was going to detain me. I was drenched in sweat and tears, but once I maneuvered my son into his seat and gave him a new DVD, he simply smiled at me, all woes vanquished, the salty tracks of his own tears lying forgotten on his flushed cheeks.
It took me a little longer to forget that episode.
Thankfully, this errand with one of my children is devoid of angst. There is just the simple balance of request and demand, greetings exchanged, instructions followed. Since Zach has progressed so far with his therapy, some of my times with Justin have been put into sharp contrast. My encounters with him have made me ache that life couldn’t be simpler for my oldest, but grateful for the ease in which most transactions are completed with my youngest. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to reconcile the yin and yang of my respective experiences with my sons.
But today, I ran an errand with my youngest child that was actually fun. And in my world, that constitutes a miracle.